AN: I'm not entirely sure how I came up with this, but I guess it began with a question. What did Harry really feel about the ending in the first book? What was he thinking? It's a children's book, so perhaps it's not surprising that the consequences of Harry's actions are never dwelled on, but I can't quite believe Harry never thinks of the deaths trailing him like a lost puppy through Hogwarts - especially the first. So, I asked: Was there an impact? What was it? And then I just had this image of him kneeling by the lake one morning, pre-dawn grey and mist and a small figure in black robes staring at the water – and, well, it just went from there.

Summary: {Vignette; End of first movie} Harry doesn't like fire anymore.

Harry was grateful Quirrell didn't wear gloves.

He shivered a bit, the cold rock beneath him draining away his body heat as effectively as if he was sitting on ice. Winter was gone but summer wasn't yet here, and spring mornings were cold and wet in the Scottish lowlands, even the magical parts.

The air was cold. The water he trailed his fingers through was cold. The mist and wind and rock was cold.

He was cold. But he could still remember-

-the pain burning through him, through his head and scar and a different kind of burning in his hands, as skin sizzled and blistered beneath his fingers-

He didn't like fire anymore.

Not that he knew much of it. He'd never gone on camping trips, and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had exchanged their fireplace for a faux one years ago - deeming it ever more civilized and better than the ashes and flying sparks from a real one.

There had been fire when Hagrid found him, he knew, in that cold shack on the island in the sea. But Harry had been too overwhelmed; baffled and delighted and stunned by revelations, to really take note of the fire the giant had conjured. No, Harry's first real lasting impressions of fire, fire that he could feel and see, had been the day he visited Diagon Alley. He could remember-

-standing in Ollivander's shop, as red sparks flew from his wand, flaring and drifting before they went out. Confirmation and benediction, proof that he was a wizard, that he did belong, and he wouldn't have to go back to his Aunt and Uncle for the rest of his life, an unwanted failure and burden and freak -

And after that - after that there was the glow of lamps guiding excited, awed, first years across a magical lake to a brilliantly lit castle above. Then, ushered through the doors into a great hall: a thousand candles floating; twinkling points of light bobbing in place. More magic, he had noted with glee, part of him greedy with these new thoughts and experiences, and he just wanted to drink it all up and immerse himself in it, because magic. was. real.

And there were the fires in the Gryffindor commons, cheery and crackling, spreading warmth through the room. And the flames they boiled their potions over, and the torches that lined some of the hallways, and even the Incendio spell, taught three months into the first term.

Fire had been magical to Harry.

He curled his knees up closer to his chest, and watched the mist swirl in patterns above the lake, and tried to focus on breathing. He didn't know what would happen if he allowed himself to dwell too deeply on what had happened - tears or hysterical laughter or screaming and screaming until his voice was gone, gone into the mist and the silence and the cold - but he didn't want to find out. He wouldn't find out, but he couldn't stop himself from recalling the feeling -

-skin charring and splitting beneath his hands, and feeling his hands touching something else as the skin melted away - harder and vaguely stringy and moving as Quirrell screamed and oh. God. It had to be muscle and if he could see or hear anything past the pain that split his skull, he knew he'd be throwing up -

Fire is still magical to Harry. But it's not always good magic.

Harry hadn't ever been naive enough to believe the magic world would be perfect - not when his first real memories were of a flash of green light and high, thin, laughter - not with dead parents and hateful relatives and the stares and whispers that had followed him through the corridors - but magic itself, whatever uses it was put to, had awed him. The variety. The versatility. The frivolousness and seriousness; an utterly alien combination of whimsy and necessity - he loved magic.

But now, for the first time, it scared him too.

He stared down at his hands, but they were just hands. Small, cold, they didn't have a single bruise or scrape on them. His fingernails were slightly ragged, but clean, and a quick trimming charm would take care of it. They certainly didn't look like they would kill, like they could cause -

-Quirrell's agonizing shrieks as he reeled under small hands, the hands of a child who was killing him, burning him alive, and Harry could feel an even stronger fire gathering in his veins. His hands sank a centimeter deeper, and they touched something hard and smooth, and somewhere in the background Voldemort was screaming a litany of commands as the fire exploded in a boil of heat, shoved into the other man, more and more heat till it seemed like Quirrell was burning alive from the inside out, now -

Stop. Breathe.

Hands. They looked like they were just hands. No different from Ron or Hermione's, no different than how they'd looked a week and a lifetime ago. They looked the same. But now he knew. And he didn't know if he could ever forget -

-Quirrell's face melting and blistering and fracturing under his hands; the stringy feel of muscle, the gritty-smooth feel of bone, the stench of burned eyebrows, and shrieks of pain and hatred, and the feeling of falling, falling, into darkness, and it didn't hurt anymore and it wasn't hot, it was actually cold -

His hands had killed.

He had killed.

His next memory was the hospital wing, and the Headmaster, and his explanations of events. Of learning of his mother and her love and sacrifice, and the spells that death had woven into his flash and blood. Spells of protection: of fire that consumed, though not without price. Spells against his greatest enemy, who had killed his parents but not him; whom he had killed, but not well enough. Who could not, apparently, touch skin to Harry's skin.

Yes, Harry was grateful Quirrell didn't wear gloves.

But Quirrell hadn't just been Voldemort, he'd been Quirrell. The Defense against the Dark Arts teacher the Gryffindors had laughed at outside the classroom, but felt a sort of mild amusement toward, what with the stuttering and his squeaks at shadows. He'd manage to make some of the stories about Dark creatures interesting, even if he went pale and dropped his wand at the suggestion of a practical demonstration. And he'd been far more patient with the students than McGonagall, and had listened to student's problems with a calm concentration that even Flitwick couldn't match. He'd sometimes had classical music playing quietly in the mornings before DADA started, and he'd complimented Harry on his Body-Bind Curse one class. And when Voldemort had fled it had been Quirrell who was left, Quirrell who had died, and though Harry hadn't actually seen the end, he'd known what was coming.

He'd done it anyway.

He might be alive today because Quirrell didn't wear gloves. It might be the only reason he hadn't been strangled at the very beginning of their confrontation. It might be the only reason Voldemort hadn't escaped and resurrected, leaving only a mirror and a corpse to be found in an empty room. It might be the only reason he wasn't dead.

He should be thankful. He was thankful. But now he knew-

He knew the feel of skin and blood and flesh and bone under his hands, he knew the stench and feel and sound and sight, the popping and sizzling and screaming and bubbling. He knew pain and terror and horror and holding on – he knew killing even as he himself was dying. He knew the cold certainty that he had ended a life; one he had known, had interacted with.

Sometimes he wondered if maybe there had been another way. If he had stalled a few seconds longer, Dumbledore would surely have arrived. If he had been slower. If he had never discovered his touch was a weapon...

Surely, surely there had been spells he might have used or actions he could have taken. He could have grabbed Quirrell's wand. He could have turned and run. He could have thrown the stone back through the door of fire. If he'd been forced to find another way, it might have played out differently. He might have never learnt to kill with his skin, might never have learnt the darkness in his magic - in his self.

He wrapped his arms around his knees, and sighed. In a few hours, he'd do his best to forget what he knew, bury it beneath the present and ignore it, an old grave he tried to forget, overgrown and neglected, never visited, even on anniversaries and holidays. He'd smile at Hermione and laugh with Ron and bemoan the fact he was returning to his aunt and uncle. He'd eat, and pack, and wave his friends goodbye.

But for now, for now he would remember.

And if he knew, even now, that those memories wouldn't stay buried: rising like revenants on long nights and dark moments, he could pretend that it wasn't so. It'd be his secret, his pain, a fitting tribute laid on Quirrell's empty grave, because Quirrell's body was burned up and blown away and only his killer was left. Ashes of innocence and ashes of an enemy, dust of dreams to the dust of the grave.

The knowledge was branded in his mind, even as he wore unblemished skin, and it was something he couldn't escape. But he could bury it, waiting in silence and cold till his enemy returned, and he needed his graveyard of ghosts to give him the strength to fight the living. But until then, until then, he would pretend to forget.

But a muffled part of him would wonder, when a fire's flicker caught his eye, what might have been different, if Quirrell had worn gloves.

"And I have sometimes wondered, in the silence of the night, if it was knowledge of the dark without that scared me, or the dark within."